Thursday, 27 July 2017

Rohr Must Look To Ighalo Experience For Cameroon

There is just over a month to go until Nigeria play Cameroon in a World Cup qualifying double-header that will have far-reaching consequences for the country's football.

Failure to qualify for two successive African Cup of Nations tournaments has left the current NFF leadership walking something of a slippery slope. Fans and media have continually used those failures as a measure of the federation's lack of competence.

Those rumblings have slowed down since NFF President Amaju Pinnick masterminded the stunning electoral defeat of former CAF President Issa Hayatou, and also getting himself elected into the CAF Executive Committee.

But it has meant that the NFF have been somewhat compelled to put all its eggs in the World Cup basket. Sitting top of the group with six points, the Super Eagles are as close to qualifying for the World Cup as they are from losing it all.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr Dan Mullan/Getty Images
A home win against Cameroon would take the Eagles to nine points, seven ahead of the second-placed Indomitable Lions. And even if they were to lose the reverse fixture, a win against Zambia in their next home game would secure the ticket.

Before June, there was optimism about the meeting with Cameroon. Gernot Rohr's team were young, flying, had not been beaten under his watch, and were looking formidable.

But they were rudely brought down to earth by South Africa, who claimed their first win over the Eagles in Nigeria and put cracks in that veneer of confidence.Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel and their Nigeria teammates celebrate a goal. GettyImages

Inexperience was largely blamed for this, and even Rohr himself agreed.

With that admission out of the way, Rohr must now think of a solution. The key absentees from his squad against South Africa were ailing goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, defender Leon Balogun, captain and midfield general John Mikel Obi, and winger Victor Moses.

Those were the injury-enforced absentees. Rohr left out others as part of a deliberate point of trying to lower the age of the Super Eagles. Forwards Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye were among those casualties.

As the German gets set to name his squad for Cameroon, his focus will be on which of his experienced players to recall.

Captain Mikel is making steady recovery and is back to doing ball work, but does not look like he will be match-fit before the game. Moses has recovered from toe surgery and - fingers crossed - should be fit and ready for Cameroon. So is Leon Balogun.

Rohr's two remaining issues will be in goal and up-front. With Ikeme out, the coach has few options available to him and has tried to convince Vincent Enyeama to come out of retirement. So far, he has had no joy there.

This month's Africa Nations Championship gives him an opportunity to assess third-choice Ikechukwu Ezenwa, even if it will be only against Benin.

It is up-front though, that Rohr will need to have a serious conversation with himself. Does he stick with his young, inexperienced, international neophytes like Victor Osimhen, Kayode Olanrewaju and Henry Onyekuru? Or does he drop one of that three to welcome the power, link-up play, experience and goals of Ighalo?

Ighalo has found his goalscoring touch again after bedding-in in China with Shanghai Shenhua. Having scored only twice between March and June, the 28-year-old has hit the most purple of patches in July, scoring six goals in four matches, including two braces.

More than that, his physical game, strength and link-up play are exactly what Rohr needs for Cameroon, not to mention the guidance he could offer the youngsters.Kelechi Iheanacho will play a key role in Nigeria's World Cup qualifiers. GettyImages

Kelechi Iheanacho, who has led the line under Rohr, could do with a powerful but cerebral forward either in front of, or beside him, that he can play off of.

Between them they could present Cameroon wit problems on the ground and up in the air with Ighalo's aerial ability and Iheanacho's skill.

Rohr will find, as he draws up his squad list, that he has little choice but to double back on his decision to leave out such a key cog in his wheel. Rohr Must Look To Ighalo Experience For Cameroon